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A Year of Anniversaries


This year marks the centenary of the Great October Socialist revolution – the Bolshevik revolution – and it also marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Marx’s Capital. Both of these events mark major milestones in the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes from the yoke of capitalism; a step on the way to building the classless society of communism.

First published in 1867, in Hamburg, Capital sought to lay bare the ‘laws of motion’ of capitalism so as those exploited and oppressed by it could have a clear understanding of the source of their exploitation and oppression.

What Marx accomplished in Capital was to go beyond the insights of Adam Smith and David Ricardo (two of the founders of bourgeois political economy), in particular, correcting mistakes that Smith and Ricardo had made in their expositions on the labour theory of value.

Marx demonstrated that the value of commodities is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time spent on their production.

As Lenin pointed out in a very succinct piece on the three sources and three components of Marxism, bourgeois economists prior to Marx had seen a relationship between things (commodity exchange) whereas Marx astutely revealed the relations between people masked by the surface phenomena of the exchange of commodities. 

Marx in Capital highlighted how with the advent of capitalism as the dominant mode of production in Britain (spreading to Western Europe and beyond in relatively quick succession) a worker’s capacity to labour – labour power – was turned into a commodity itself. 

By paying the price of this commodity (wages) a capitalist is able to extract from workers more value (over the course of the working day, week, month, year) than what they are paid in wages; that is to say, surplus value is created by workers. Surplus value being the source of profit, the Holy Grail of capitalists.

Marx undertook the arduous task of researching and writing Capital to arm the proletariat in the class struggle against capitalists and capitalism. It is a book that requires diligence and hard study to understand. For those of us struggling to build socialism here and abroad though, it is required reading.

Nor was he only a great theorist, but also a committed activist who declared, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.”


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